An escape room for families teaches fundamentals of evolution

June 23, 2023

Two people in white lab coats at the entrance of "VenomVenture" escape roomA strange and mysterious plant is on the rampage, causing people to break out in itchy purple blotches!

The premise of a new sci-fi movie or dystopian video game?

No, it’s the theme of a new escape room — an immersive educational adventure that families emerge from only after solving science puzzles to save the world from a prickly end. The game takes place in an inflatable space about the size of a small bus, decorated to look like a mobile lab and labeled VENOMventure — or aVENENOtura, in Spanish, since the exhibit is bilingual.

Created by educators at the University of California Museum of Paleontology (UCMP) at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum in Lawrence, VENOMVenture premiered in its final form over the last two weeks at the Berkeley Public Library, drawing rave reviews from one elementary-schooler and a thumbs-up from some 60 families that, thankfully, escaped without succumbing to the plant plague.

“The escape room was so much fun,” 8-year-old Mizuki wrote in a letter to the children’s librarian the day after her adventure. “Thanks for letting me try the escape room before it started.”

To quote more of Mizuki’s fan mail would give away the new game’s clues.

“There are a lot of educational games, and even a few educational escape rooms at museums, but this sort of immersive, physical game is unique in terms of the nature of the learning goals that we have for the room — to improve public understanding of basic concepts in biology, particularly related to evolution and evolutionary relationships,” said one of the developers, Anna Thanukos of UCMP. “This is something new that’s never been done before. So we’re interested in learning what we can about how people do or do not learn in these particular environments.”

Read more about the traveling escape room below >

Berkeley News